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‘ABVP threat’ forces Udaipur Film Festival organisers to shift venue

Pragnya Joshi, the main organiser of the event, said the whole episode happened only because of the “Dalit and oppressed label” behind the programme

Muzzling democratic dissents and protests has become quite the norm in India in Narendra Modi regime. There have been a series of attacks against intellectuals, writers, artists, and whoever use their freedom of expression to criticise the BJP and RSS.  The latest episode in this series is the threat raised by the ABVP, the student wing of BJP, against the organisers of Udaipur Film festival. As a result of it, the organisers had to change the venue of the festival on Thursday.

According to a press release posted by Udaipur Film Society and the Cinema of Resistance Campaign on their Facebook pages, ABVP representatives wrote a letter to the administration of Rajasthan College of Agriculture where the festival was expected to happen.

In the letter, ABVP alleged that the film festival would disrupt local harmony, and the organisers were playing dirty politics in the name of Ambedkar. Taking note of this letter, the college administration cancelled the permission for conducting the festival saying “the organisers didn’t ask for the permission”. But the organisers have denied this accusation and said that they had been organising this for the last three years and the issue of permission had never occurred before.

Pragnya Joshi, the main organiser of the event, said the whole episode happened only because of the “Dalit and oppressed label” behind the programme.

“Atrocities against Dalits and other oppressed groups of people by the Hindutva forces are being highlighted everywhere. Protests are going on. The ABVP and RSS suppress our voices because of their fear towards our politics. Secondly, projecting the name of Rohit Vemula as a face of oppressed Dalit community also created the ruckus. We’ve been organising this for the last three years. So, from where does the issue of permission come from? It’s quite obvious that the administration of the Rajasthan College of Agriculture acted on behalf of the RSS,” said Joshi.

The film festival, which was started since 2013, by Udaipur Film Society and the Cinema of Resistance Campaign is based on the theme of “Voices from Dalit Resistance”. The UFF features films and documentaries on the issues of Dalits and other marginalised sections of Indian society which, quite naturally, speak out against the ideas propagated by the Hindutva forces. This year, the festival will exhibit feature films like Sairat, Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan, and new documentaries on Dalit resistance like Flames of Freedom: The Ichchapur Declaration.

The local ABVP and RSS leadership have already declared that they wouldn’t let any anti-national activity happen in the name of a film festival. However, even though the venue has been changed, the organisers are standing firm on conducting the festival at any cost.

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